Tigers - India - Wildlife Conservation

The tiger, largest of all cats, is one of the most charismatic and evocative species on the Earth; tiger is also one of the most threatened. Only 6,000 or so remain in the wild, most in isolated pockets spread across increasingly fragmented forests stretching from India to south-eastern China and from the Russian Far East to Indonesia. Across its range, tigers are being poisoned, electrocuted, blown up by land mines, trapped, snared, shot and captured. The majority of tigers are sought to meet the demands of a continuing illegal wildlife trade.

Hunters, traders, and poor local residents whose main means of subsistence comes from the forest, are wiping out the tiger and the natural prey upon which it depends. While poaching for trade continues to menace the tiger's survival, perhaps the greatest long-term threats are the loss of habitat and the depletion of the tiger's natural prey. Tiger sightings have become quite rare these days in India, reason being the Tiger killings because of its multitude of medicinal or magical properties that is why tiger trade is very profitable. Genuinely the tiger skin is not fashionable but the smuggling of Tiger fur coats and rugs are not difficult for the impoverished hunters. Even after the bans made by the government warning not to gather even wood from the former hunting grounds, poaching of tigers continue.

Already 3 tiger subspecies are extinct - In the past century, the world has lost three of the eight tiger subspecies. The Bali, Caspian and Javan tigers have all become extinct, and the South China tiger is facing the same fate.

Seven areas offer the best hope for conservation - WWF's new tiger conservation strategy and action plan - Conserving Tigers in the Wild: A WWF Framework Strategy for Action 2002-2010 - identifies seven focal tiger landscapes where the chances of long-term tiger conservation are best and its involvement will be most valuable. In each of the focal landscapes, WWF aims to establish and manage effective tiger conservation areas, reduce the poaching of tigers and their prey, eliminate the trade in tiger parts and products, create incentives that will encourage local communities and others to support tiger conservation, and build capacity for tiger conservation.

Species Description - The tiger is the largest of the cats and can be found in a wide range of habitats, from the evergreen and monsoon forests of Indo-Malaysia to the mixed coniferous-deciduous woodlands of the Russian Far East and the mangrove swamps of the Corbett National Park, India. The characteristic stripe patterns differ from one individual to another and from one side of the cat's body to the other. In fact, there are no tigers with identical markings. Males exhibit a characteristic ruff (lengthened hairs around the neck), which is especially marked in the Sumatran tiger.

Tigers are typically solitary hunters and prey mainly on deer and wild pig. Where this prey is in abundance, such as Corbett National Park in India, territories range from 20 to 30km for females and 40 to 70km for males. In Russia, where the density of prey is much lower, territories vary in size from 200 to 400km2 for females and 800 to 1,000km2 for males.

Tigers have dens in caves, tree hollows and dense vegetation. They are mostly nocturnal but in the northern part of its range, the Siberian subspecies may also be active during the day at winter- time. Using their sight and hearing rather than smell, the tiger stalks its prey and once it has reached close proximity, attacks from the side or rear and kills by a bite to the neck or the back of the head. In 90% of cases however, tigers fail to neutralize their prey. Unless they die, tigers are never replaced on their range. Although individuals do not patrol their territories, the range is visited over a period of days or weeks and it is marked with urine and feces.

Size - Body length of the tigers is 140-280 cm and tail length is 60 to 95 cm.

Colour - The upper part of the tigers ranges from reddish orange to ochre, and the under parts are whitish. The body has a series of black striations of black to dark grey colour.

Why is this species important?

The tiger is a powerful symbol of reverence among the variety of cultures that live across its range. Wherever tigers live, they command respect, awe or fear from their human neighbors. Even in places where tigers have become extinct or never existed in the wild, they live in myth and legend. Recognized throughout the world for its ferocity and unmistakable beauty, the tiger faces an uncertain future. Due to increases in both natural and human threats, the wild tiger population suffered major losses during the 20th century and has become one of our most endangered species. By the 1950s, tigers living around the Caspian Sea were extinct; between 1937 and 1972 the population of tigers that once inhabited the islands of Bali and Java disappeared; the South China tiger, with at best 20 to 30 individuals, is nearly extinct in the wild.

India today has the largest number of tigers, numbering somewhere between 3,030 and 4,735 and it is estimated that only 5,100 to 7,500 individual tigers now remain in the entire world. These remaining tigers are threatened by many factors, including growing human populations, loss of habitat, illegal hunting of tigers and the species they hunt, and expanded trade in tiger parts used for traditional medicines.

As top predators, tigers keep populations of wild ungulates in check, thereby maintaining the balance between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed. In short, when tigers thrive, the ecosystem thrives. Still efforts are continuously made to preserve these magnificent predators from extinction. The Project tiger was launched in India in 1972 as conservation programme for saving the Indian Tiger Population. Some of the best examples of this programmes success can be seen in the national parks situated in the high Himalayan region, Corbett National Park. But more wildlife conservation laws and awareness among people is still required to make Indian sanctuaries a safe haven for tigers.

WWF and its conservation partners are working to combat these threats and save the tiger. Together, we can ensure that we leave our children a planet where tigers still roam wild.


Interesting Facts A tiger has been reported to cover up to 10 meters in a horizontal leap.

The World Wide Web is an immense resource of knowledge. Below we've included our favorite links on tigers and other related subjects.

Project Tiger:  The population of tigers in India suffered a heavy decline in the post-Independence period. The main reasons were:

    1. Diversion of forest land to make way for developmental activities like irrigation, hydroelectric projects, road/rail construction etc.

    2. The degradation and fragmentation of wildlife habitat under growing human needs for fuel, fodder and extraction of non-timber forest products.

    3. Sport hunting and poaching of tigers for trophies.

Objectives

Project Tiger was launched with the following main objectives:

To ensure maintenance of a viable population of tiger in India for scientific, economic, aesthetics cultural and ecological values.

To preserve, for all times, the areas of such biological importance as a national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people.

History

Project Tiger was launched from CorbettIn 1972 the tiger population shrunk to an all-time low of 1,800, which drew the attention of the Government to take urgent measures to conserve tigers. After the introduction of the Wildlife (Protection) Act in 1972, a special conservation programme focussed on tiger protection was mooted. This was called Project Tiger. Project Tiger was launched on 1st April 1973 from Dhikala in Corbett National Park with the announcement of 9 tiger reserves (including Corbett) including 268 tigers. Subsequently, more protected areas were brought under the umbrella of Project Tiger and tiger population in India visibly improved. It was estimated at over 4,000 according to the 1989 census.

However, the 1993 census showed that there was a decline in numbers with the total standing at 3,750 tigers. The overall population in tiger reserves was relatively stable but there was a marked fall in population that existed outside these reserves. One of the main reasons for this was an increase in international illegal trafficking of tiger parts, especially bones that are used in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine systems. Over the years more areas were brought under Project Tiger and declared as tiger reserves. Today there are 27 declared tiger reserves covering more than 37,700 km2. Several more are proposed to be added to the list.

Organisation : Project Tiger is governed by the Government of India as Directorate of Project Tiger under the Ministry of Environment and Forests. It is headed by Director (rank of Chief Conservator of Forests). The Director supervises and monitors the management of Tiger Reserves and provides financial assistance of to various state governments. Tiger Reserves are under the administrative control of State governments. Each Tiger Reserve is managed by a Field Director (rank of Conservator of Forests). The Field Director reports to the Chief Wildlife Warden of the State, and is assisted by Deputy Director(s) and the usual field staff. The States receive 100% financial assistance for non- recurring items and 50% of financial assistance for approved recurring items.

To get Corbett Tiger information and to know more about Tiger Tour at Corbett National Park or to reserve a wildlife safari tour to corbett national park, write email on jimcorbettpark@gmail.com

 Tiger Links

"Extinction stalks world's tigers" - NEW! - CNN Interactive article on the state of the threat to tigers the world over.  Links directly to ENN, CNN's environmental news wing, and to other sites of interest.

Tiger Action Fund - More than half the surviving tigers live in India or its neighboring countries. The tourist organization, Rare Explorations, has taken up the cause of the tiger.

World Wildlife Fund's Cybertiger - Here at the UK's World Wildlife Fund site, play an interactive game to win a limited edition CD-ROM that follows the life of a real tiger.

Save the Siberian Tigers - Read interesting facts about the panthera tigris altaica and find out how to sponsor a Siberian tiger.

The Tiger Information Center - Excellent informational and educational site dedicated solely to helping conservation efforts of five subspecies of tigers.

David Rose's Tiger Page - Straight information from around the world about poaching and the status of various subspecies of tigers.

The Cyber Zoomobile - Lengthy but information-packed essay on tigers.

Tigers - Ambitious site ready to make an impact on saving tigers. Find out what you can do to help!

The Tiger Foundation - Another great foundation committed to saving tigers in Asia.

Year of the Tiger - Come celebrate the Year of the Tiger with the World Wildlife Fund.

The Siberian Tiger Project - Follow the steps of Russian and American scientists at the Hornocker Wildlife Institute who are spearheading research on the natural behavior of Siberian tigers.

Phoenix Zoo's Sumatran Tiger - Fast facts on the Sumatran tiger.

Wildlife Chronicle - "The biggest online showcase on Indian wildlife." Access pictures of tigers and learn more about other endangered species in India.

Sites about India

The Times of India - Indian daily newspaper with comprehensive coverage of political news and links to other publications.

India by City.Net - Excite's extensive guide to traveling to India.

Discover India - The Indian Government's official site to the country. But this site does not only talk politics! Read about sports, culture, social issues, and tourism in India.

Hill Tours Pvt. Ltd. - Specializing in special interest tours to the Indian subcontinent, take an eco-friendly trip to Agra, Jaipur, the wildlife sanctuaries of India or to Tigerland in Kanha.

India World - All the current news about India and more! From cooking to cricket, browse this comprehensive site.

Other Links to Wildlife Conservation Sites

Cyberpanda's Panda Resources - Jumpstation to panda sites all over the Net.

International Rhino Foundation - There are five remaining species of rhinoceros - all on the verge of extinction. Learn more about this 50 million year old species.

Greenpeace - Endangered Species in Canada - The Canadian branch of Greenpeace has built an alert Web site to inform Web surfers about endangered species and their habitat in Canada.

Endangered Species Act - An online resource guide to the ESA.

The Bear Den - Site dedicated to spreading information about the North American bear.

 
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